A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I took all my blog photos on my mobile phone. It was the quick and easy way to get photos on the go and be able to upload them to my blog almost immediately. These days I've been using my Canon camera, as a semi-pro photographer I decided that I could step up the quality of my photos by combining my two loves together. I set up the photos, and just get someone else to click the camera for me as I don't have a remote trigger. I then run the photos through Photoshop or any other editing programme for a quick bit of colour correction, occasionally to edit out anything that's creeped into the back of the photo that shouldn't have, or to make sure the exposure of the photo is just right. Then they are ready for my blog! One thing I never do, is retouch my skin or edit myself.
I leave in all the bumps, the stretch marks, the folds of my skin, the hyper-pigmentation, the scars, the eczema. One of the reasons I started blogging is because I think representation is important, and if one person can see my body and see themselves and feel less alone, or even start to realise that their body deserves love too, then I've done everything I could ever have wanted. It's hugely important to me to be real and to share my body as it is. With a higher quality camera, all those little blemishes become much more visible, your iPhone selfie might show your skin in a much more flattering light than a professional camera does, so when bloggers are taking photos with these high quality pieces of technology, in comes the Photoshop pressure.
When you blog, there is so much pressure for everything to be perfect, from your immaculately ironed clothes, to your highly stylised images, everything has to be perfect. If it's not, will a brand want to work with you? Will your readers still love you? There's so much pressure, and I totally get bowing to it, Photoshop is the standard in the media, seeing a published imaged that hasn't spent time being edited and touched up is almost unheard of. It can be hard as a blogger to fight that pressure, particularly when you have a larger audience, because with a larger audience, comes trolls.
I'm not perfect, and that's OK. And seeing other bloggers who look like me share themselves has really helped me realise that all those things that I consider imperfections are actually just fine the way they are. As someone who is body positive, I think not retouching my photos is important. It would feel false to me personally if I retouched my skin and made myself look perfect, when I'm not. To me, taking away the scar on my face would be like shrinking my waist, I'm here to show reality, and my reality is what society deems to be flaws.
The only time I've ever shared photos of myself that have been potentially retouched is recently, and that is with the photos from my shoot with Shannon Swift. Shannon's work is high fashion and conceptual, it is glossy and perfect, and everyone's highlight is blinding. I'm not wearing any more makeup than usual in the photo above, just my usual eyes and lips, and I asked Shannon to make sure if she did retouch my skin that she left my scar in. I wasn't sure how much I would be retouched, and zooming in, it's clear that Shannon totally got that I'm not into super smooth skin. All my little freckles are still visible, the creases in my eye lids, even the super faint scar on my forehead and the weird white patches on my two front teeth. This made me so happy. I actually don't think she's really touched my skin! When you see professional photographers work it is often so heavily retouched, but that isn't what Shannon has done and it made me so happy! I'm me, just a really awesome well lit version of me.
I'd love to see more transparency from bloggers about the level of retouching in their blog photos. I adore that George of Fuller Figure Fuller Bust shares her shape wear and how she creates the foundations for her vintage looks, I love that Amanda Apparel shares her before and after makeup photos with her psoriasis. I'd love to see bloggers stating that they've been retouched in their photos so people know that they are seeing the perfect version of them, not the reality. Much like I'm glad to see advertisers being forced to declare that a model is wearing false eyelashes in their mascara advert, I want to see bloggers admitting that they've smoothed out their skin. That way their readers know that's not what their foundation really looks like, or that in this high fashion set of photos they've had their skin evened out to make the photos as immaculate as possible. I think this is particularly an issue in beauty blogging, because edited images can make a product seem far better than it is and be very misleading. I've seen bloggers edit out the creases in their lips and make their eyelashes longer, and if you are sharing makeup reviews, that isn't right or fair for your reader.
Transparency is key for me. I don't mind if you feel the need to retouch your photos, I'd just love to know that you are! In this Photoshopped world I'd love to see more real skin and reality. As a kid I was convinced my skin was terrible because I had no idea that sebaceous filaments were perfectly normal, and that I wasn't totally covered in black heads. Actually, my skin is pretty good and I'm very lucky in that respect! I might have eczema but the dryness of my skin means spots are a once a month deal for me and have never been an issue. I've got a bit of a furry face to be honest, I'm covered in fine downy blonde hair, and that's OK too.
I know sharing your real skin can be a terrifying prospect, especially in this time of Facetune and Photoshop, but think how liberating it would be for a teenager to see their favourite blogger has acne scarring just like them! There's an argument to be had about whether bloggers should be aspirational or not, and for me personally, that's not what I'm about. I'm much more the awkward nerd type than the sort of person someone wishes to be like, so for me, sharing the real me is everything.
It's OK if you feel you need to retouch your photos, but I hope as blogging progresses we can see more transparency in the industry about what has been done to photos. As we declare gifted items and sponsored posts, I'd love to see us all move to declaring Photoshopped images too. Photoshop can make a beauty product seem truly unbelievable, when the reality is that no foundation is ever going to erase your pores and give you the look of a beauty blogger's ring lit portrait.
What do you think?